Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On the Warpath

A Native American website is trying to stir up controversy over a t-shirt marketed by apparel retailer The Gap that bears two words: "Manifest Destiny." These Indians are on the warpath over the shirt, denouncing it as emblematic of racism and genocide, suggesting the Gap release a "Final Solution" shirt, as well. The article is accompanied by an image of a shirt with the phrase and a picture of what looks like Prussian soldiers posing by a mass grave (presumably meant to be the US Army burying Indians). Further down in the article, the author admits this is not the actual Gap T-shirt, but rather, "something i made to show what i see" (sic), quoting Steven Paul Judd, who had placed the image on his Facebook page. The real shirt has no images, only two words.

While I have been a lifelong defender of American Indians, long before it was politically correct to do so, I think this is, in Joe Biden's words, a bunch of malarkey. It's a classic example of the liberal spin machine going into overdrive in an attempt to redefine history in the name of political correctness. Every schoolchild read American history textbooks with a chapter on Manifest Destiny, of which PBS says: "No nation ever existed without some sense of national destiny or purpose. Manifest Destiny — a phrase used by leaders and politicians in the 1840s to explain continental expansion by the United States — revitalized a sense of 'mission' or national destiny for many Americans."

Without a sense of Manifest Destiny, American pioneers would not have ventured forth into horrible conditions, across deserts and swamps in nothing more than tarp covered wagons and hope of building a new life in a new land. Without Manifest Destiny, America would not exist. The United States would not have claimed Oregon, annexed Texas or spread west to California. We might still be a nation of 13 colonies had we ignored Horace Greeley's advice to "Go West, young man".

American expansion led to conflict with indigenous Indian tribes and there was brutality on both sides. The U.S. government broke every treaty it made with the tribes and legislation such as the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was reprehensible. President Andrew Jackson's defiance of the Supreme Court's decision in Worcester v. Georgia is as inexcusable as it is was illegal, and the deaths resulting from "The Trail of Tears" following the Act were tragic. But the myth of the "Noble Savage" has been overblown by Hollywood and the liberal media. Many Indian tribes were equally savage, attacking and slaughtering innocent settlers and pioneers. There was plenty of blood spilled and inhumanity exhibited by both sides. The fact the white man ultimately won does not absolve the Indians of their share of the carnage.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Monroe "it is impossible not to look forward to distant times when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, and cover the whole northern, if not the southern continent". Historian Robert Johannsen cited Abraham Lincoln's interpretation of the Civil War as a struggle to determine if any nation with democratic ideals could survive, "the most enduring statement of America's Manifest Destiny and mission". To reinterpret the phrase "Manifest Destiny" through a politically correct, revisionist lens is disingenuous, to publish a photograph of an offensive shirt that was not the one marketed by the retailer but was merely "what their shirt means to me" is not only disingenuous but misleading, and to compare Manifest Destiny to the Holocaust shows a lack of understanding of either, and is more offensive than anything written on a Gap T-shirt.

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